Stories of a possible sighting of a cougar, also known as a mountain lion, in central Pennsylvania last week prompted me to go public with my account of a possible cougar sighting. I am not a proponent of cryptozoology, and while the cast of Finding Bigfoot might be marvelous fun to hang out with, I don’t believe in such creatures wandering around in the woods. Still, this is what I saw, and I believe it was a mountain lion, which according to the PA Game Commission has been extinct in the Commonwealth for a century.
I wrote the paragraphs below a couple of weeks after I returned home after an extended vacation. They are substantially as I wrote them at the time.
“On August 26, 2010, at approximately 10 PM, I was driving to my campsite on Mount Davis after spending the day hiking at Ohiopyle State Park. Mount Davis is the highest peak in Pennsylvania, and the campsite was an unimproved clearing in the Forbes State Forest. The road was unlit aside from my headlights. After I turned onto Vought Rocks Road, I noticed a animal crossing the forest road ahead of me. It was about 20 to 30 feet from the car. I didn’t see the creature’s head, since it was entering the brush on the left side of the road. But I did get a view of the body. It was tan-colored, with a long tail. I estimate the height of the animal’s back as about the height of my car hood. My first thought was “Oh my goodness, that looks like a lion!” It moved like a cat. I didn’t stop to investigate where the beast crossed the road, as it was dark and I didn’t know what it was.I didn’t have my camera handy so I wasn’t able to get a photograph. The sighting was a mile from my campsite. I wasn’t too concerned about my safety as I understood such cats to shy away from man.
“I knew it wasn’t a deer or bear. It was too large to be a bobcat and the coloring was wrong. It didn’t look like a wolf or coyote. I assumed it was a mountain lion, and still believe this. I didn’t file a report with PADCNR or the Game Commission because I wasn’t aware until yesterday that the mountain lion/cougar is officially considered extinct in Pennsylvania.”
I’m open to other explanations of what I saw.